View Full Version : Does anyone know the procedure for waking old Norman gear from ancient slumber?

29-Dec-2016, 23:23
I'm getting a Norman P800D and P2000D that have been in the used camera shop long enough I'm getting them 90% off the normal used price. I'm acting on the assumption that this means it's been years, possibly a decade, since they've actually been powered on. For a shorter storage period, I'd just plug them in, switch them on, and let them idle for an hour before popping them. With this much, much longer sleep, I don't have any idea how to maximize my chances of NOT blowing them up when the plug them in.

Anyone have a good answer?

30-Dec-2016, 00:25
This came up for me with my old Speedo 2403 that I hadn't used in 25+ years...

I called a strobe tech, and asked him for re-startup instructions...

I think it was something like plugging in a strobe head into each channel, and switching all power settings to their lowest output, and slow recycle settings before plugging in the AC power... Then place strobe in area away from yourself + other stuff in the rare case of something blowing up (like a driveway or patio), plug in in (to a GFCI outlet), and turn it on... DON"T FIRE IT, YET... Let it sit for 2 hours on, then while still on, click it up 1 power setting and wait an hour, then another click up/another hour and so on... When you get to full power setting, let it sit on for 2 hours... Turn off for an hour, then on for an hour... Then fire it ONCE, and let it sit on for another hour... Then you can give it multiple pops, but let it recycle well before repeating pops... Use only slow recycle setting... Only touch the plastic buttons with a rubber gloved single hand during this process, and eye protection will not look stupid on you... Take the time to make this an all day affair... Don't unplug the heads during the process...

Despite this ominous process, most strobes will be reformed this way safely, but the above safety precautions will save you from the unlikely nasty surprise... It may seem like an elaborate game, but it makes sense electronically to re-form and re-cycle the caps... If the strobes are pre-80's/90's, some of the soft wire insulation inside can melt from age, and possible hazards and faults, so proceed carefully...

If it doesn't fire, DO NOT go inside it!!! If in doubt, send it out... :-0

Steve K

30-Dec-2016, 02:47
An initial power-up more than a few minutes for a retired supply is asking for an explosion.

See my reply on APUG.

- Leigh

30-Dec-2016, 20:34
A decade is no big deal for electronics. There is a procedure for getting the capacitors back up to 100% capacity, but you don't really have to bother unless you really need to squeeze every possible lumen out of the gear. In any case, capacitors degrade over time, so these will not give anything close to their rated output.

Before powering on, you might want to check the insides for cobwebs, dead mice, signs of water damage, etc. Blow out some dust with compressed air if you can. But don't attempt this if you have already plugged them in, the capacitors can hold their charge for some time and they'll cause serious injury if you touch the wrong part.

Neal Chaves
31-Dec-2016, 22:05
Call the guys at Holly Enterprises in North Hills CA, the world's foremost authorities on Norman for free tech advice at (818) 892-9020. The four banks of capacitors in the 800D and 2000D all charge fully when power is turned on. The brown knife switches only combine or isolate the banks. This is why the rule with Norman is change power settings only with the pack powered up and ready, plug or unplug heads only with power off.

With an unknown 800D 1200D 2000D 4000D packs, all you can do after an exterior visual inspection (look for burned receptacles) and shake for loose innards, is plug it in and turn it on. Attaching a head (beforehand) is not required. Watch for the ready light and listen for sounds of arching and be alert for any hot smell or smoke and shut down immediately if you detect any of these. It may take the ready light a while to come on, but if it does not come on within a minute or two, shut down the pack and check the ready light bulb itself. On all but the latest production packs, the bulb is inside the square test switch. Pop the top off the button with a knife to reveal the bulb. It is a common neon type and often the thin wire leads are just corroded and not making good contact. Don't attempt any work inside the pack without years of training and experience, and a good volt meter to lead the way, if you value your life.

This generation of Norman packs (excluding the 4000D), especially those with SN over 100K are some of the most reliable packs ever built and will soldier on for many years if properly cared for. Talk to the guys at Holly before you buy any used Norman. They will tell you which lemons to avoid.

Neal Chaves
31-Dec-2016, 22:40
I can offer one more suggestion if you hear arching, although Brent Hollister at Holly Enterprises, who is an electronic genius, disagrees with me.

I bought two nice, very late production 2000Ds, the ones with the square cornered cases. These are considered to be the best packs Norman ever built. One pack worked perfectly from the start. The other one had some problems due to a carry handle nut that had fallen off and into a circuit board and done some damage. After I repaired the circuit board and tested the pack, it arched internally in the capacitor banks. I took everything in the banks apart at Brent's suggestion and rebuilt making sure all the connections were tight. It still arched and the ready light did not come on within a few seconds, so I always shut it right down.

As a last resort to try to reform the capacitors , I took every extension cord I had, which were bundled in military fashion, and plugged them together (probably 300 feet) to drop the line voltage, and then into the pack. When I powered up the pack, I heard no arching at all and the ready light came on after about five or six seconds (instead of the usual two). I let it charge all night, then flashed it on a short cord the next day, normal recycle time, and it has worked fine ever since.

1-Jan-2017, 05:28
+1 on Neil's suggestion of Holly Enterprises... Norman used to fix their own stuff while in Burbank, but not sure after it was sold...

I have seen many trashed Norman's still in use, but the one thing they sometimes go back for (IF they ever need service) for is problems with the trigger circuit, (where it powers up but doesn't fire), so don't go messing with the insides if it won't trigger... (Not a big deal for them to service)... The older, heavier transformer based models tend to be more bulletproof in use...

Also, if anyone has a studio strobe, at least power it up for an hour or so every few months if not in use...

Worth it to service these if they don't work...

Steve K

Neal Chaves
1-Jan-2017, 07:55
Ed Taylor, the Chief Technician at Holly, worked at the Norman factory in Burbank from the very early days until production was moved to Minnesota. If it can be repaired, he can do it. Unfortunately, several Norman models cannot be repaired economically, and many other used packs are on the market which were factory-modified for use by the big chain studios and they will require restoration and repair before being put back into service. Shipping these heavy units for purchase, sale or repair is quite expensive and a major consideration.

The ability to continuously vary flash output ( a variator or trim control) is very useful, but the circuitry required adds a whole other level of complexity to the pack. If you don't need power trim, stay away from it. None of the 4000WS packs from any manufacturer are very reliable and it is best to avoid them. If you need a lot of power, use multiple 2000WS packs which also provides you with back-up against pack failure.

I bought some of the big studio-owned 24/24 packs from E-Bay when they hit the market for about $200 plus shipping each, but had to have them reworked by Holly for another $200 each plus shipping both ways. A good working 24/24 is a joy to use with its many power combinations and power trim. The 24/24 is the last generation of Norman pack that can be repaired cost-effectively. Once the feature-laden current D12, D24 is out of warranty, it is just an expensive door stop if it fails. Its circuit boards are surface mount technology are sealed like a computer mother board. Consider this before buying one used.